So I’m just sitting on the toi- couch. And I’m taking this survey asking about technology and media. One question asks what I think of digital piracy.
“Do you consider digital piracy to be as bad as shoplifting?”
Negating my past actions (being from the age of Napster), I “Strongly Agreed.” For some reason this question made me ponder the actual thought of what shoplifting entails and how digital piracy compares to it. I thought back to every argument I’ve ever had with stupid teenagers (and some stupid adults) on this topic. I could never really make my argument stick, though.
I once came up with an argument which involved a never ending supply of chairs. You’d take one and it would duplicate. Just like downloading a song or movie. But the reality of such a situation makes the whole analogy fall apart quickly.
I’ve tried taking the “morals” route, but most people don’t care about what’s right and wrong in this case. After all, who cares about paying a few bucks to a multibillion dollar Hollywood studio who seems to be out to get all of your money for their trivial attempts at entertaining you?
Alas, I finally figured it out! Here’s the best analogy that shows digital piracy is in fact wrong, if not the same as stealing.
First off, lets take a look at what digital piracy entails: a studio makes a movie. They put the movie in digital download form, or on one of those disc thingy’s. You take this video and put it in a format which you can place on all of your devices, stream across your home network, and share with your friends, or strangers on the internet. Technically, you paid for that copy of the movie (or a viewing license to watch that copy of the movie in its intended portal). You may not own the movie itself, but that copy is yours. If you want to back it up in case you lose the original you should be able to, right? If you feel you already paid $20+ for the DVD and shouldn’t have to pay again just to watch it on your iPod, Xbox, or computer you’re not alone. Should you be able to make copies and hand them out to your friends (when they had the opportunity to purchase the DVD just like you did)?
Lets look at WalMart now. Pretend WalMart began making products beyond their special off-brand toilet papers. Lets say they make their own media player: the WalPod. And it only costs $30! Of course, everyone will want a WalPod. Now, being WalMart they have a ton of money to make crap like this. But you decide you’re not paying $30 for something made by WalMart. So you, and most of your friends manage to find a way to circumvent the security protocols at WalMart and begin walking out with one everytime you visit. In fact, since you’re all doing it, other people start doing it as well. Pretty soon, it becomes all the rave to steal WalPods. Like I said earlier, WalMart has lots of money. However, even thought you might not think you’re going to hurt them, the reality is they are moving product (losing product?) and not making any money. They still have to pay people to work on the WalPod: designers, marketing teams, programmers, and such. As time goes on, they begin to pay these people more than they are making off the WalPod.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “That is obviously wrong, because you are taking something from them without paying for it. Now they can never sell it and lose out on the money it would have brought in if someone would have paid for it. Digital media is not the same thing.”
Well, you’re only half right. It is true that downloading a song leaves the original in tact and still available to sell. But that’s not the similarity between the WalPod and an MP3. The similarity lies in the end result, not the existentialism of the original product.
When you download a song, movie, tv show, video game, or other digital media you have just robbed that content creator of the money you would have paid to access/own that specific digital item. They might still be able to sell the original master file, but not to you. Nor to the other people who pirated that file.
The people who worked (and possibly continue to work) on those digital items will soon be out of a job if the parent company sees that they are paying the workforce more than they are making on that item. What’s worse, people will still have access to that digital media content and neither the parent company nor the content creators will be compensated for producing it.
If that doesn’t make sense you, then you’re probably a teenager… Or just stupid. Sorry.